Tree and Stone

by Lothithil
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Chapter 13: Justification

Tree and Stone, Chapter 13, The Story of Legolas and Gimli continues

Justification

There was a ruckus in the Dwarven quarters. Gimli approached the chamber with growing apprehension. He could hear his father's voice, an even and firm tone over which several other voices were raised in argument. Gimli hastened to lend his support to Glóin, whatever the subject of the debate.

As it turned out, the subject of the argument was himself! The young dwarf entered the room and the voices fell silent. Boròr was standing at the point of a wedge of dwarven ire, tugging on his greying beard as if he expected it to come off in his hands. Glóin stood before him, arms crossed and face closed. Boròr turned his eyes toward Gimli.

"And where have you been, beardling? Great councils and debates of our Age ring in the halls and you tarry beneath elvish awnings, while here your folk discuss the future of our people! Did you pay any attention at the council? Can you even understand what all this means?"

Gimli ignored Boròr, saying to his father. "I have spoken to Lord Elrond on our behalf."

Boròr was not pleased to see Gimli's back. He clapped a heavy hand on Gimli's shoulder. "And who are you to speak for Dwarves to Elrond?"

Gimli turned his head, staring at Boròr's offending hand, then casting a piercing glare to his face. Boròr released him and stepped back. "I am Glóin's son, and I claim the right to represent our folk in this quest, if the Lord Elrond permits." Gimli clearly stressed the Edain's title, and his eyes challenged all. "Idle I stood, when Thorin Oakenshield when forth to reclaim the home of our people from the dragon. I remained with my father and my king when Balin made his journey to Khazad-dum, though my heart was sore to join him. Now I am the fittest, the strongest, the most skilled and mettled, and I claim the right to accompany the Ring-bearer. Which of you wish to challenge me?" Gimli raised his axe and kissed the gleaming edge. "I have been quarreling with Elves all day, and I am ready for a real fight!"

Glóin was nearly swelling with pride, looking on as his son stood up the elders. He took a step to bring himself behind Gimli. "As the official representative of King Dàin, I have already appointed my son Gimli to this task, as is my right. Boròr, you speak with wisdom and with passion, but in this you have no voice. Gimli is the one who will go. But as he says, the last decision is with Lord Elrond."

Boròr frowned and twisted his beard. "How can you trust this Elf-lord? Did you yourself not languish in the prisons of the Green Elves? Did the comfort of those cells teach you to love thralldom?"

Glóin moved so quickly that even Gimli was surprised, and the bottom length of Boròr's beard was lying on the floor before anyone had realized that he had drawn his axe. Boròr leaped back, stumbling into the other dwarves behind him and tumbling to the floor. He stared at Glóin in shock.

Glóin replaced his axe in its sheath. "I consider this to be the end of the debate. Gimli, if you would accompany me... I wish to pay a visit to our old friends." Father and son left the room and Boròr, fingering his shortened beard, reflecting on how thankful he was that Glóin had cut away only what could easily grow back.


~~~~~


Legolas had a similar problem when he returned to the airy chamber he shared with his travel companions. Finoglos was beside himself with anger, but for quite the opposite reason.

"Have you gone mad?" he asked, discarding all pretense of respect. Legolas merely listened, his arms crossed and his bearing set. He had expected no less.

Finoglos continued his tirade. Baranhan and Randundo stood nearby, their faces betraying their own feelings. "Your father the King... he will not hear this! When I return to Mirkwood, he will ask 'Where is my son?' What will I tell him?"

"Tell him that his son has taken responsibility for himself," Legolas said gently, "At last."

"Responsibility? You call this responsible? Gallivanting off on some doomed errand with a motley crew of half grown mortals?" Finoglos sputtered.

Legolas's face grew stony. "Stay your tongue before you say more than can be recalled, Finoglos. You and I are friends of old but these folk deserve our respect, not our disdain. I will not hear you belittle them."

Finoglos touched his arm, a gesture of entreaty, "Please, Legolas my prince; reconsider! Your father did instruct you to return and not be turned aside! Let another take this quest. Your people and your king need you."

"And I need to see this through. This is my fate, Fin. Father shall not hold you responsible for me. Indeed, it is likely that you shall stand in my stead, captain of the guard that was once my pride, and upon you will his gaze fall should the kingdom need an heir. I would trust none more than you, my friend.

"You must let me go. All the errors of my life have built this stony road, and I must tread it. At the ending will I make reparation for my folly, and maybe find salvation. When I return to Mirkwood, I shall no longer be the Elf you see before you." He gripped Finoglos's shoulder, and his friend returned the gesture, tears of silver filling his almond eyes.

"I shall bear tidings to thy father, Thranduilion. Nai hirivalye Valimar, heru nin."

Legolas smiled. "You always were a good student of the old tongue. May you find Elfhome, also, my friend."


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Chapter 14: Legolas

Part 1


The Council has decided to send Frodo Baggins as Ring-bearer, to bring the One to Orodruin. His companions, other than the faithful Samwise, are yet to be chosen.

Legolas

When Finoglos rode with Baranhan and Randundo to return to Mirkwood, Legolas rode accompanied them to the foothills of the mountains. Fëavano was pleased to be bearing him again, but when Legolas handed his lead to Randundo, the elf horse whinnied and resisted. Legolas felt a pain in his heart as he thought of going on a journey without his faithful friend.

He fondled the proud horse's head and said, "Noro lim, mellon nin! I have a journey before me that is for no fine horse to attempt. I could not let you suffer to spare me a few steps. None of the rest of the companions are riding; we are to be remember in tales as the Nine Walkers."

Fëavano snorted as if this was an insult, but he gently butted his head against Legolas and turned to follow Randundo obediently.

Watching them walk slowly away, Legolas remembered the moment that Elrond had summoned him to his chamber to deliver his decision. Legolas was granted a place among those being chosen to go with Frodo and help him.

"Frodo Baggins is the one appointed by the Council to bear the Ring," Elrond had said, "And not unless the need is dire, and the Ring-bearer fallen, should any other take up this burden. I have tried to choose wisely, and select those who I believe would have the courage and fortitude to continue his errand, should things go badly very early. But I have no illusions that all of you will survive this quest, nor that all of those beginning this journey will accompany Frodo everywhere that he must go. It is the long journey between here and Mt. Doom that proves he needs assistance. Should he make it across the mountains, then I deem that his companions will have fulfilled their duty."

Legolas had responded firmly, his pride stirred, "I will go with the halfling even to Sammath Naur! I will not be turned aside by a long journey or cold comforts!"

"Maybe it will be so, and maybe other quest will bear you off," Elrond had returned gently. "Set not your heart in stone and listen to this wisdom. A great party of folk traveling together may attract attention unwanted. And an Elf in a desert stands out rather sharply to seeking eyes. Do not endanger Frodo with your zealousness. He must succeed, at whatever cost, though I hope that it is not a price too high."

The Edain's face became sad. Legolas stared at him in wonder. Elrond spoke softly, and there was resignation in his voice, "For many nights and days I tended him, and now it is I who needs a balm for my heart! What is it with these tiny folk, that they take our love offered reluctantly, and give it back so wholly that we feel a marvelous kinship to them?"

"The hobbit Bilbo Baggins; he is a fascinating creature." Legolas agreed. "And that Frodo is his son does not surprise me, for they are very similar in courage and constitution."

Elrond looked at Legolas in amusement. "But they are not father and son, my good wood elf! Did you not hear the tale of how Bilbo adopted his young cousin and brought him to live with him, as his heir? No? Well, let us go to the Hall of Fire, and I shall make a request of our dear Bilbo, so that your ears should know the truth of it. But you are still correct. Bilbo and Frodo are quite similar, while still differing in some very important ways." Elrond had not elaborated at the time, so it was long before Legolas came to fully understand his last words.


And now as he watched his friends ride away, returning to the lands that had once been his entire world, Legolas felt suddenly very small, as if he were somehow become a halfling himself, facing a great journey with a dark ending. The mountain wind buffeted him harshly, colder that ever he had felt its bite before.

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Part 2

Gimli

The story of a strangely forged friendship continues. Here is what the stone had to say...

Hot as a forge's fires burned the heart of Gimli, as he watched the four wood elves ride away that morning. Turning their backs on the world, as so often they had done. How could he simply leave, and let the Quest fall to chance?

Gimli was angry and disappointed. He had come to rather enjoy bantering with the woodelf Legolas, and he admired his skill and grace, although wild horses could not have dragged those words from his lips! But watching them as they shrank into the distance without a backward glance, reminded him of another departure many years ago, and he felt the same hollowness in his heart and bitterness returned to his thoughts.

"Trust an elf to leave," he grumbled softly, knotting the end of his beard. He was looking out of the window at the end of the east wing of the House. A balcony opened up over the falls and showed the valley below, a map in a storybook with the river Loudwater running down the center like a spine. The road wound up out of the valley toward the pass on the high places. "Let them go!" War would come to their guarded places, and the trees would not hide them from the Shadow that would cover the earth.

He heard a soft noise behind him, turning to find Bilbo's youngest cousins walking down the corridor towards his window. With an effort, he shook off his dark thoughts and greeted them.

"Hail, Merry and Pippin!" He knew them well, now, from nights in the Hall of Fire, telling tales and drinking ale. The two merry young hobbits got along well with the Dwarves, even grouchy old Boròr. Gimli was glad that they would remain in Rivendell, soon to return to the Shire. Some folk indeed did not belong on dangerous missions.

"Hail, Gimli!" Both hobbits bowed, in unison with a flourish. Gimli's laugh boomed out and he clapped their shoulders.

"What brings you to the windy side of Rivendell this morning?" the dwarf asked. "At the breakfast table I can usually find you at this hour, and in the next hour as well! How fares your cousins today?"

Merry and Pippin laughed. "Cousins Bilbo and Frodo are very well, and linger yet at the breakfast table that we have forsaken, to deliver a message to you from Lord Elrond," Merry said, stooping to pick up a pine-cone. He threw it as far as he could, trying to reach the waterfall beyond. Pippin imitated him, his greatest effort only reaching half as far as his older cousin.

Gimli waited a few moments as their contest drew angry voices from those whose quiet morning was interrupted by a strange hail of pine-cones upon the roofs of their dwelling. The hobbits retreated hastily, giggling.

"What of this message, my mischievous lads?" prompted Gimli.

"Oh! He wants to talk to you. And your father, too." Pippin said. He peered closely at Gimli and pointed at him. "You have a knot in your beard, did you know?"

"Hmm? Yes, so I have... excuse me, lads." Gimli hurried back to the chamber, where Glóin was breaking fast with the other dwarves in their parlour as was their custom. Gimli preferred the common hall for meals, and the cheer and wit of the hobbits for company, but the other dwarves sought to avoid such contact with the other races, particularly the elves. Occasionally, Gimli could persuade his father and the others to accompany him.

This morning he found them grumbling over breakfast, clearly amid a debate of some kind. Gimli bowed to apologize for the interruption, and delivered his message. Glóin rose at once.

"Let us all hear what the Elven Lord has to say, Glóin." Boròr said, and the other dwarves murmured in agreement.

"I shall report faithfully," responded Glóin, but this did not satisfy the other dwarves. They insisted on coming along. Glóin shrugged and led the way. Gimli said nothing.

If Elrond was decommoded by the large group of dwarves that appeared at his study, he gave no indication. He welcomed them all inside.

"I thank you for coming so swiftly, Lord Glóin. In these days since the Council I have deliberated the selecting of individuals to accompany Frodo Baggins on his quest and speed his success. I have decided that each race should be represented in this endeavour, the numbers composed to reflect both our strengths and our hopes for union in peace with all races. Thus, at the petition of your son Gimli, I have appointed him in the place of the dwarves."

Gimli let a silent sigh escape him. Glóin beamed with pride and laid a hand on his son's shoulder. "He goes with my blessings, and I know that he will serve the Ring-bearer well."

Boròr could not let the instant pass. "But what of the dwarves interests in the Rings? Are we to return to our king and people with no news or allies to bolster us in the war to come? Can we not send word to Balin in Moria? It seems to me that we are placing much hope on the head of one frail halfling!"

Elrond looked at the dwarf and Boròr took half a step back, so strong was the veiled ire of the Edain. "As I said in council, if you were there to hear, there is naught that can be done other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone, as you have seen. Your troubles are but a part of the troubles of all the western world. All things of worth and goodness are threatened by the Shadow. And together we will fight, each in our own way, and each to their strength and beyond."

To this Boròr could say nothing, so Elrond bowed and dismissed them. Gimli lingered behind. "Lord, a word with you?"

"Of course, Gimli. You have doubts about your choice?"

"Not in my willingness to go, nor in my belief in my worth. Your words do bolster this dwarf so that I would move mountains to assist the Ring-bearer toward his goal. But I do wonder about the other companions, the ones who will also accompany us."

"Not all decisions have been made. Much deliberation remains to me. My councils will be made known in a few days, after the last of the scouts return."

"Will we go to Khazad-dûm?" Gimli blurted out. In his heart was still the desire to know what had befallen his kindred, and why they had been silent for so long.

Elrond rose and walked slowly to the window. His grey eyes were farseeing, and he looked toward the south, through the bulk of the mountains that rose and held Rivendell in security. Penetrating was his gaze, and Gimli fell silent watching. It seemed that the elf Lord was many leagues away, instead of standing in the same room as the dwarf.

After long minutes passed he spoke. "I do not see the path that will be taken, only glimpses of possibilities. There is darkness ahead, and many paths diverging from the road. And beyond, I see nothing. The future is uncertain."

Having no words to say, Gimli bowed and left Elrond, still looking out of his window. Sober and depressed, Gimli took a walk rather than return to his chambers to listen to Boròr complain.

If it was winter in this valley, it was as remote as the sky overhead. The air was soft and moist, and while many colourful leaves fell and blew about, there was much green amid the trees and flowers bloomed still, obstinately denying the seasons. Stubborn as an elf, Gimli thought to himself, and he sat down on a stone and slowly worked the knot out of his beard.

To his surprise, a lone figure appeared, walking toward Rivendell down the road from the mountain pass.

Legolas noted the dwarf sitting beside the road, and he let his feet lead him nearby. He sat himself beside him on the grass, taking in the view of the mountains that he had assumed had caught the dwarf's attention.

"There are three less elves in Rivendell to badger you now, son of Glóin," Legolas said, "And soon, one more shall depart, on long road with a dark ending."

"Well, that is a pity indeed, son of Thranduil, for now I shall be saddled with your constant company, if you, too, have been selected to escort the halfling." Gimli smoothed his beard, trying to conceal his smile beneath. "I have been informed that I shall be honoured to accompany him as well."

Legolas nodded, his heart laughing though his face was calm. "Longer now than it might have seemed, at least the road will be more entertaining , for I foresee many good arguments in my future."

Gimli's face darkened, for sobriety and depression had not lifted from him entirely. "This is no light matter, and I shall not be baited into debates for the amusement of an Elf!" he said gruffly.

"That is well, for as serious as this errand is, I will see little humour and light beyond the hoping for success, and that is a wan star. But to do nothing is to defeat one self, and the Enemy's victory would come too easily. And I give nothing easily, but my loyalty to Frodo Baggins."

"In that, we are agreed."